Colour On Clydeside
Paint paradise for graffiti artists
Glasgow arts venue’s ground-breaking graffiti site
THERE is not much evidence left in Glasgow of the days of the tobacco trade, where the city’s merchants made their fortune. There are Virginia and Jamaica streets, St Andrew’s in the Square, once the Tobacco Lords’ parish church, and a tobacco merchant’s house in Miller Street, currently being restored.
However, there is one building that echoes the vibrancy of those heady days of the 18th century, a tobacco bond on the banks of the Clyde that is home to SGW3, a multi-arts venue which is at the heart of the city’s bustling arts scene.
Although it has been providing live events, artists’ studios and gallery spaces since 2005, a new addition to the set-up only opened a few months ago. The Galvanizers Yard is an outdoor area, a facility that sets SGW3 apart from other arts venues in the city – Glasgow’s first-ever legal graffiti site.
“Graffiti is a tricky word as it conjures up a lot of different things for different people,” says SGW3 director Andrew Fleming-brown. “We’re very interested in it as an art form and Gary Mackay, who is one of the managers here, has been working with Network Rail and British Transport Police for a number of years on large commissioned projects at track-side.
“We found out that while these projects were ongoing, track-side vandalism was dramatically reduced. So, with that and a history of successful projects, we managed to get Scotrail owners Abellio to sponsor part of the development of the yard last year and we’re working on creating this all year round.
“It’s a graffiti facility in a safe environment where people can develop their skills and create professional opportunities. There’s an artistic message to be learnt and a social message as well – getting these guys off the tracks, out of dangerous environments and to somewhere a bit more like a studio.”
The yard has a footprint of 2300 sq metres (25,000 sq ft) and can also host live events, with a capacity for up to 5000 people. In the past year it has hosted Scotland’s biggest graffiti festival, Yardworks, and a range of food and art and design markets. The old bond warehouse itself has a versatility for corporate dinners, film screenings, product launches, fashion shows and private hire.
However, SWG3 is a living, growing organism that is continuing to evolve. “We’re always looking for the next opportunity,” says Andrew.
“We have the lease on a number of the railway arches beside us which make great retail spaces – that’s something that we’re looking to grow over the next nine to 12 months. We’ve just opened a new café bar and started a new restaurant menu in the evenings and we’ve had planning consent for a rooftop restaurant and bar.”
Andrew got his inspiration when working in a New York venue called PS1. “That place definitely had a lasting impact on me,” he says. “It showed me how an arts centre and space could facilitate many different art forms, exhibitions and events. That was a mix we didn’t really have in Scotland.”
The mix at SGW3 has to be seen to be believed. Not only do they have the Galvanizers and warehouse, but there’s also a poetry club, TV studio, photo studio, design studios and theatre.
It’s definitely putting the “multi” into multi-arts.
The Galvanizers on the banks of the Clyde
The yard is a thriving hub
A graffiti artist at work in the yard